Forever Changed

IMG_3705-3138291281-O3As I think back to my trip to the Dominican Republic with Go MAD six weeks ago, it seems so far away and yet like I was there only yesterday.  I remember vividly our last night there, a Thursday evening, when Chantz asked us, “What are you going to do when you get home?”  I sat there and listened to everyone’s responses and can honestly say, I didn’t know.

Six weeks later, I still don’t know.

But I HAVE returned changed.

There are so many things that you would think would be at the forefront of my mind as I think back to our trip:  the children that we played with in Munoz and at the Bible study on Wednesday evening, the church where we witnessed God’s spirit as we participated in a Spanish speaking service, the rehabilitation facility where we met recovering addicts in the midst of godly men, the women in Ascension who passionately wanted us to purchase their jewelry, the 300 children that we helped feed on Friday morning, or (if I wanted to be selfish) the beautiful sunsets and amazing landscapes.

But these are not the things that moved me.  They impacted me…but they don’t move me to action like two significant things that I witnessed.  Two things have caused me to pray daily how I can help Go MAD on a grander scale.  Two things have convinced me that no matter what I was doing, it wasn’t enough.  Two things that continue to convince me that there is more that I must do.

The first evening that we traveled to an adjoining village, I watched an older man, dressed like an American, walking down the street on the outskirts of an urban area.  He was leading a woman behind him by the hand who was clearly from the Dominican Republic or Haiti.  She was dressed like she was headed to a party in downtown Austin or Houston.  The first thought that came to mind was, “Why does she look so sad if she is walking down the street with her boyfriend?” And then I tried to rationalize her face wondering if something had just happened that caused her to look so depressed.

Later, there was a beautiful woman in our hotel who was also from the Dominican Republic.  Like the first woman, she was also dressed provocatively and looked very lost the first time that I saw her.  It appeared as if she was gathering her bearings, looking for someone.  Although this caused me to pause, I didn’t immediately jump to conclusions as to why she was there.

The next morning, I saw this same woman at breakfast, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt and again that night at dinner.  While at the dessert table, she walked up behind me to add a dessert or two to her plate and I nonchalantly made a comment about how good the chocolate dessert was and encouraged her to try it.  As I sat down to eat and then have reflected on that moment many times since, I wonder if I should have said more.

I know that there was nothing that I could have done in my situation to help the first woman, save to pray that someone would rescue her from what I now know is a life of prostitution.

But, the second one….could I have spent a few moments to witness to her?  Could I have shared, in just a few brief moments, how important she is to God?  Could I have asked her to sit with me at the pool sometime before we left for the United States and listened to her story and showed her that hope exists?  Could I have told her that I would be praying for her every day almost 46 days later with a heaviness in my heart, praying with my whole being that I didn’t miss an opportunity to save her?

These are the things I think about now.

As I recently heard of two different sting operations where the police arrested young girls and women in a sexual slavery ring in the US, I thought of the girls.  I thought of how the girls here in the US will have access to healthcare, counseling, education, support, and even a GoFundMe opportunity.  And then I think of the women in the Dominican Republic, the few that are rescued, and how they don’t have access to these things.  My thoughts then drift to what these women think and how they continue with their lives when they are rescued from prostitution.  Who lifts them up?  Who gives them hope?  Who counsels them and tells them that God loves them and that they are valuable?

Yes, I still pray daily about how I can help Go MAD.

But the focus of many of my prayers are for these women who have so little hope.  My prayers are always for these families who get stuck in the cycle.

I may not have discovered exactly what my changed life will look like, but I do know that these women will always be a part of me and that I will forever be changed.

– Victoria Otto, Mission Trip Team Member

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